Once headed toward earning a doctorate in philosophy, Victoria Wise instead chose to follow her passion for food and cooking. On August 28, 1971, she cooked the first-ever meal at Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California (it was a classic French dish, Duck with Olives).
From then, there was no stopping her. In 1973, she opened Pig-by-the-Tail Charcuterie, a landmark establishment that helped define Berkeley’s emerging “gourmet ghetto” as an epicenter of culinary innovation and redefined the notion and style of “deli” in America. Everything was made in house, from the sausages, pates, and ham, to the salads, even the mayonnaise for dressing the celery remoulade and potato salad, and the pastry for crusting the quiches on the bottom and the chicken and sweetbread pot pie on top. The likes of her exuberant display of fresh foods had not been seen in American delis, nor in French ones, which were traditionally more limited to the meat products and not accenting the vegetable and take out dishes. She owned and cooked in “the Pig,” as it was affectionately called, for 12 years, then sold it to pursue writing and gardening while she raised her son and turned to developing accessible, approachable recipes for cooking fresh at home.
Based on the dishes she created at Pig-by-the-Tail, Victoria wrote American Charcuterie: Recipes from Pig-by-the-Tail which was nominated for the James Beard Best Cookbook of the Year award in 1987. Fourteen more cookbooks followed (some coauthored with Susanna Hoffman), including Good & Plenty: America’s New Home Cooking; Foods Of The World: Mexico; The Vegetarian Table: Mexico; The Well-Filled Microwave Cookbook; The Vegetarian Table: Japan; The Pressure Cooker Gourmet; The Gardeners’ Community Cookbook; Annie and Margrit: Stories and Recipes from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen; The Armenian Table; and The Olive and The Caper: Recipes, Gastronomy, and Lore of Greek Cooking, on which she collaborated with the main author, Susanna Hoffman. Victoria’s most popular book so far is The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook (1990), which has sold more than 263,000 copies.
Her latest published cookbook is Sausage: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Homemade Sausage, a beautiful volume of recipes which stretches the notion of sausage to include chicken, seafood, even vegetarian versions, and no casing required (Ten Speed Press, April 2010).
Her next cookbook is a tome on American cooking titled Bold Food: A Cookbook of American Cuisine and How It Came to Be, co-authored with Susanna Hoffman (Workman, Fall, 2013).
In addition to cookbooks, Victoria has written for numerous print media, among them the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Food & Wine, and Williams Sonoma’s Taste as well as contributing to three volumes of the Time/Life Great Meals in Minutes series, California Fresh, and other cookbook compendiums.
She lives in Oakland, California, continues to cook in an all-American, multi-ethnic style, and has terrific fun blogging recipes and her thoughts about the world of food. Her website/blog is www.wisekitchen.com. You can also visit her FaceBook Page.